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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agents slammed for failing to protect staff and clients in virus crisis

The estate agency industry has been sharply criticised for its record on protecting staff and customers during the Coronavirus crisis.

The compliance company making the accusations says many agents do not meet a basic duty of care and may be in breach of their employment contracts and public liability insurance policies.

Paul Turner, executive chairman of APD Global Research, says agents have generally seen a surge in business since lockdown was eased but he says they have been slow to implement measures to protect their employees and vendors.

“Their approach to informing buyers of the rules under which house viewings could take place, including checking for symptoms of COVID-19, were disjointed and in many cases did not meet a basic duty of care” he says. 

“They were potentially in breach of the terms and conditions of their employer and public liability insurance policies.

“Many either had no written rules in place or had created lengthy health questionnaires which buyers found time consuming to complete and challenging to return in time” concludes Turner, whose firm is marketing a so-called ‘declaration tool’ for use on viewings.

Trade organisations such as Propertymark and The Guild have produced extensive guidelines on agencies conducting safe viewings and how to organise their offices to maintain social distancing; guidance is also awaited from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on whether face coverings will have to be worn by staff and/or visitors to branches when the protocol becomes mandatory in shops from July 24.

While there was a small number of reports suggesting that some agents were conducting in-person viewings during lockdown, and some company staff members complained to the media about being asked to work in offices rather than from home, there appear to have been almost no reports of lax safety procedures since lockdown eased.

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